The Graduate School provides general requirements for the Master of Science in all departments at CU Boulder. The following requirements specifically pertain to students pursuing a Master of Science in the Department of Computer Science. It supplements the Graduate School requirements; in all cases not specifically mentioned below, the general Graduate School requirements are understood to apply.

While pursing the research based MS degree in CS, you may select between two options:

  • Thesis Option: Complete 24 credits of course hours, according to the course requirements mentioned below, and take 4-6 thesis credits. You must also fulfill other MS degree requirements as stated by the department.
  • Non-Thesis Option: Complete 24 credits of course hours, according to the course requirements mentioned below, and take 6 credits of independent study hours. You must also fulfill other MS degree requirements as stated by the department.

The department requires a candidate to complete an approved program of study consisting of at least 30 semester hours. At least 24 of these 30 hours must be in Computer Science courses at the 5000 level or above. (Any course that is cross-listed by Computer Science is considered to be a Computer Science course, regardless of the department in which the student actually registers.)

Up to 6 hours may be taken in courses at the 4000 level or above in other departments (CSCI 4000 level courses cannot be counted towards a master’s degree), provided that those courses have "significant Computer Science content" and are taught by a member of the graduate faculty. The student must file a petition to allow these credit hours to be counted toward the degree. This petition must explicitly verify the above requirements and must be approved by the student's advisor and the Graduate Director of the Computer Science department.

There is no limit on the number of coursework that can be taken via distance section, which offers distance learning for graduate-level courses in an accessible, online format. Coursework will be verified on the Candidacy Application for Advanced Degree during the semester the student intends to graduate. 

Computer Science Courses are listed in nine areas of research. All students must earn a B or better (not a B-) in at least one 5000-level course (not 6000 or higher) in four of these nine areas:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Computational biology
  • Human-centered computing
  • Numerical & scientific computing
  • Programming languages
  • Software engineering
  • Database systems
  • Systems & networking
  • Theory of computing  

For more information, visit the Graduate Breadth Courses page.

Master's students may request a maximum of nine semester hours from another University or from within CU (either taken as a non-degree student OR as a non-CS student) to be transferred. All transfer requests must have departmental approval. Transfer requests can be made with the Graduate School's Request for Transfer of Credit.

Courses outside computer science may be appropriate for a given student's program. With the approval of the Graduate Committee, any non-CS courses at the 4000 level or above are allowed under this heading if they are taught by a member of the graduate faculty and are not cross-listed with Computer Science. This requires Graduate Committee approval.

Students will be expected to submit a plan of study, in consultation with their departmental advisor, during the first semester of study. Changes to the plan of study must be approved by the advisor.

Students who elect to do a thesis receive 6 hours of thesis credit towards the required 30 hours of coursework. They must also take an oral comprehensive exam on their thesis work and submit their thesis to the graduate school for approval. Students electing the non-thesis option must complete 6 hours of independent study research. The Indepdendent Study hours may be spread over two or more terms.  Master's thesis defense must be scheduled following Graduate School deadlines and the exam committee plus date of defense must be sent to your Graduate Advisor at least two weeks before the exam is held via email.

The Graduate School requires that to receive a master's degree, a student must maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 in all courses taken as a graduate student. No grade lower than a C can be counted towards the master's degree. No grades lower than B can be counted towards breadth requirement.

A student who fails the oral thesis defense may retake the failed exam once, in a later semester. In doing this the student may switch between the thesis and the non-thesis option of the program. A maximum of two attempts is allowed.

Each graduate student is assigned to graduate advisor when they are accepted into the program. Students consult with their advisor to plan their course of study. If a student does a master's thesis, typically they change advisors and use their thesis supervisor as both academic and thesis advisor.

Any student who does not enroll for any course work relevant to Computer Science in any one semester (summer semesters excluded) must supply the department with a written statement describing the reasons for such inactivity and the student's current intentions concerning work towards the degree. This statement must be received by the department by the end of the eighth week of the semester in question. Failure to do so will be regarded as evidence of a lack of interest in continuing in the program. Similarly, any student who does not enroll for any Computer Science course work for three consecutive semesters (summer semesters excluded) will be regarded as showing a lack of interest in continuing in the program. In either case, the student may be asked to explain to the department why the student should not be removed from the degree program, with the department making the final decision on the removal.

All requirements for the research based MS degree must be completed within four years of the start of course work.